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Forepaugh’s nearing reopening

If you’ve been near Irvine Park recently, it’s certain you’ve noticed the construction crews hard at work on renovating the Forepaugh Mansion at 276 Exchange St.

The historic home operated as Forepaugh’s restaurant from 1976-2019 when it closed abruptly following the sudden death of their executive chef.

Now, five years after closing, the restaurant is on the brink of reopening.

According to John Sugimura, a Corporate Chef with Taher, Inc., the owner of the historic property, that reopening could be very soon.

Sugimura, whose primary job is traveling the country preparing Japanese fare for students and who specializes in Japanese cooking and food education, said he backed into his involvement with the renovation of the historic property.

“When an alarm went off, I was the closest and would be the one to respond,” he said.

From there, through, he’s been intimately involved in the rehabilitation of the 153 year-old property, not only as someone to be present, but to carry forward owner Bruce Taher’s commitment to the property’s history in a project manager role.

“In the beginning, we didn’t know what direction the restaurant was going to be,” Sugimura said. “Bruce Taher’s ardent wish was, we have a responsibility to this property.”

That commitment included preserving as much of the historical details of the home as possible in the renovation. 

Sugimura said that everyone he’s talked to has communicated the same thing, that the property has deep meaning to them. 

“Whether they’ve had a rehearsal dinner, or a graduation party, or a toast on the patio, people have told me how meaningful this place has been to the community,” Sugimura said. “We heard that loud and clear and Bruce Taher deserves 100% of the credit.” 

John Sugimura
Chef John Sugimura.

He said that Taher had passed his passion for bringing back Forepaugh’s to provide that same level of importance to the community down to everyone involved. 

That doesn’t mean renovation hasn’t come without setbacks.

In September of last year, Thomas Duffey of Turn Key Associates, the contractor for the property, had to seek approval from the Historic Preservation Committee to reconstruct the front porch, which he termed as “completely unsalvageable.”  

According to Sugimura, that wasn’t even the biggest issue facing the property.

“The neighboring property’s trees were pushing through the basement wall,” he said.

Sugimura said they have been able to persevere through the unexpected and are moving ever closer to their grand reopening.

“Originally, as we were getting closer, we thought it would be in May,” he said. “We’re hoping for June, but it’s realistically going to be July.”

Sugimura said that they’ve hired an Executive Chef for the restaurant (as well as an exciting Chef Consultant that he wasn’t able to divulge quite yet) and they are working through creating a new menu.

While the menu hasn’t been finalized, he said that everyone involved knows the restaurant landscape has changed since the pandemic and that he anticipates that more casual fare will be available in the pub.

“Not everyone wants an $80 piece of sea bass on a Tuesday night,” Sugimura said.

Once the project is completed, Sugimura, who was on “Iron Chef Japan” last season, said he’ll be opening his own restaurant, a 10-seat sushi restaurant in Eat Street Crossing, in addition to his work as a food educator.

And that time is getting closer – crews are just down to some last details before the doors open on a new chapter of Forepaugh’s in St. Paul.

“We are waiting to paint the exterior,” he said. “Everybody stand by, when you see that painting happening it’ll be close.”

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